The streets were almost back to normal in Selma, Ala.
For two straight days, tens of thousands packed the city to commemorate the 50th anniversary of Bloody Sunday, highlighted by President Barack Obama’s visit Saturday afternoon.
But Monday morning, a group of about 70 people of all races kept the spirit of the movement alive as they began the 54-mile trek from Selma to Montgomery, that foot soldiers, led by Martin Luther King Jr., completed on their third attempt half a century ago.
“The movement is not over; we have just crossed another bridge,” Charles Steele, president of SCLC, said.
Young and old gathered at the base of the Edmund Pettus Bridge to begin the journey.
Ninety-year-old Corine Crayton substituted her wheelchair for a walker saying she will march until she is physically unable to.
Meanwhile, Desiree Robertson, 11, and her brothers, Tosh and Zion Small, ages 7 and 9, respectively, walked together.
Robertson and her siblings are Selma residents and know the history of mistreatment black people in their city have experienced. Even though they didn’t live through the thick of the civil rights movement, Zion Small said it’s still important for her generation to stand up and take a stance.
“Just because segregation is over doesn’t mean it’s really over,” he said. “We can still march for our freedom and rights.”
Others were actual participants in the 1965 marches, including both Bloody Sunday and the successful journey to Montgomery.
The celebrities, food vendors and national media had all come and gone. That meant this march lacked the spotlight of other events that rocked the city Friday, Saturday and Sunday.
But that didn’t matter to the marchers who departed Monday.
Wilfred Hope was 3 years old in 1965. He was in Selma all weekend with his daughter, and after kissing her goodbye earlier in the morning, he took to Highway 80 himself to support the people in his life who helped give him some of the freedoms he enjoys today.
It’s important, he said, to keep the movement of the foot soldiers and civil rights activists alive, which is why he was walking Monday.
“Yes, we’re talking 50 years since the initial march of Selma to Montgomery, but still, there’s that generation of us that came up, and we were young when it happened,” Hope said. “We have to encourage our youth.”
The marchers are expected to get to Montgomery Friday night, officially ending the 50th anniversary events in Selma. But just like in 1965, the marchers hope the message of racial, social and economic equality extends far beyond the capitol steps.
–Nick Erickson with Elyssa Larson